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In midst of 2016 election, State Department saw Burisma as Joe Biden’s issue, memos show

By John Solomon

In recent interviews, Joe Biden has distanced himself from his son’s work at a Ukrainian gas
company that was under investigation during the Obama years, with the former vice president
suggesting he didn’t even know Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings.

There is plenty of evidence that conflicts with the former vice president’s account, including
Hunter Biden’s own story that he discussed the company once with his famous father.

There also was a December 2015 New York Times story that raised the question of whether
Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma posed a conflict of interest for the vice president, especially
when Joe Biden was leading the fight against Ukrainian corruption while Hunter Biden’s firm
was under investigation by Ukrainian prosecutors..

But whatever the Biden family recollections, the Obama State Department clearly saw the
Burisma Holdings investigation in the midst of the 2016 presidential election as a Joe Biden
issue.

Memos newly released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Southeastern
Legal Foundation detail how State officials in June 2016 worked to prepare the new U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to handle a question about Burisma.

In multiple drafts of a question-and-answer memo prepared for Yovanovitch’s Senate


confirmation hearing, the department’s Ukraine experts urged the incoming ambassador to
refer all “Burisma and Hunter Biden” questions to Biden’s VP office.

“Do you have any comment on Hunter Biden, the Vice President’s son, serving on the board of
Burisma, a major Ukrainian Gas Company?,” the draft Q&A asked.

The recommended answer for Yovanovitch was: “For questions on Hunter Biden’s role on
Burisma, I would refer you to Vice President Biden’s office.”

The Q&A is consistent with other information flowing out of State. As I reported yesterday,
when a Burisma representative contacted State in February to ask for the department’s help in
quashing the corruption allegations, Hunter Biden’s role on the company’s board was
prominently cited.

And a senior State Department official who testified recently in the impeachment proceedings
reportedly told lawmakers he tried to warn the vice president’s office that Burisma posed a
conflict for Joe Biden.
There are no laws that would have prevented Hunter Biden from joining Burisma even as his
father oversaw Ukraine policy for the President Obama. And the corruption investigations
launched in 2014 by British and Ukraine authorities involving Burisma and its owner Mykola
Zlocvhevsky involved activities that pre-dated Hunter Biden’s arrival on the board.

The real public interest question involves Joe Biden. Federal ethics rules require government
officials to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, and ethics experts I talked with say the
vice president should have recused himself from issues affecting Burisma.

That became poignantly public when Biden leveraged the threat of canceling $1 billion in U.S.
aid in March 2016 to get Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, who just happened to oversee the
Burisma probe.

There are more memos and documents to be released in the coming months under the FOIA
lawsuit I filed with the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

But one thing is already clear: long before President Trump or his attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to
make political hay out of the Burisma issue, career State officials already saw it as an issue for
Joe Biden.